Extremity - Coffin Birth - (8/10)
Published on July 12, 2018
Spewing forth form the coffin like a creepy little character out of a comic book is Extremity’s first full length album, Coffin Birth. If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, take a look at the artwork and that little weird fella who is being born on it. In addition to him we’ve got a couple zombies and a naked woman. It’s kind of a grab-bag of random death metal clichés. And it’s not good. If you were going to judge a book by its cover (or in this case an album), Extremity would not be getting a good review. Fortunately, we’re not judging the ill-advised cover artwork, we’re covering the super-solid death metal album it houses!
Extremity is an underground supergroup of sorts, featuring members of some very well-known and respected underground bands. Helming the drumkit is Aesop Dekker (ex-Agalloch, ex-Ludicra, Vhol); on guitars we’ve got Shelby Lermo (Vastum); and on guitars and vocals, we’ve got Marissa Martinez-Hoadley (Cretin). That is a formidable threesome of humans who play metal music! They released a really good mini-LP/EP in 2017 that got everyone excited for what they would do next (also with one of the best titles ever—“Extremely Fucking dead”). Well, just over 20 minutes of music was not enough for this estimable trio, so here we are with their first full length, Coffin Birth.
This is some straightforward thrashing death metal for the most part, a really fun album even if it’s not top shelf. First off, there’s a punky attitude to this album, which I imagine is due to Mr. Dekker and MMH, Dekker being known to infuse a punk ethos into his drum playing, an MMH being in a Repulsion worship band. MMH’s vocals are blunt, gruff, and really don’t change much. They’re like a sledgehammer just beating into your wall over and over again, except in this case it is your eardrums. MMH’s bark comes across as a mix between traditional death metal vox with just a sprinkle of hardcore dropped in. They suit the straightforward aesthetic of the album and come across as totally vicious.
“Vicious” is a good way to describe the instrumentals as well. The instrumental performances are aggressive as all hell. Guitars and drums go balls out the entire time. Dekker’s drum performance is what lends most of the nuance to the album. Per previous performances, Dekker is not content to just hammer away at his drum kit—though that is what he does for much of the run time. He also utilizes some subtle cymbal work throughout that is a very nice touch. It doesn’t fully fit with the pummeling vocals and guitars, but the fact that it doesn’t fit is what makes it so cool. Overall his drum sound seems to be fuller than it is on many albums he is on, giving added force to his use of toms and bass drums.
Guitars are huge and have an excellent tone that really shines through on tremolo riffs especially. Given Lermo’s other band, this makes sense, but the riffs are pretty reminiscent of Vastum and Bolt Thrower, and I imagine fan’s of Necrot’s 2017 full length will also be pleased. The guitar playing is heavily influence by Bolt Thrower—lots of mid-paced stuff, lots of riffs broken up by hammer-on-pull-off type stuff. It’s definitely faster than latter-day Bolt Thrower for the most part, though, more resembling the earlier stuff before BT fell into a groove that they never escaped from. The guitar interplay is great. Not in like a “twin guitar attack” type of way—it’s subtler than that. For example, on some of the tremolo riffs, the guitars are just ever so slightly off of each other. Whether that was intentional or not, it gives the riffs a freewheeling, natural feel that comes across excellently. Some of the grooves are just infectious, too. “Like Father Like Son” being the prime example. The intro finds Lermo and MMH groovin’ out while Dekker does his best post-punk cum death metal impression in the back.
One aspect of the album I’m not sure about are the weirdo flourishes that the band throws in. For the most part this is a straight-up bruiser of a DM album. But then there’s the organ that opens the album. The random acoustic guitar lick in the middle of a riff in “For Want of a Nail.” The acoustic intro to “Misbegotten/Coffin Death.” Are these flourishes necessary? More power to the band for trying to add in some weird stuff to differentiate themselves, but I’d argue that no, they are not necessary. They’re not necessarily bad, but I think they detract a little from the aggressive vibe of the rest of the album and sound incongruous.
Overall this is a really solid album, but it never quite puts itself above the sounds of its peers. For people who want this type of stuff, Vastum and Necrot are both doing it better right now. Though this album is fun while the ride lasts, there is nothing about the album that really plants its flag and says “here we are, this is our territory,” like other DM bands playing this style do. And that’s OK! That doesn’t mean that this album isn’t worth it, because it is an action-packed thrill ride through some good old no-holds-barred death metal.